ONE of Sheffield’s most unusual theatrical success stories is the tiny Lantern Theatre in Nether Edge, which has had a new lease of life and attracted big audiences since it launched its first professional season last year.
The city’s oldest theatre is a beautiful little Edwardian venue built next to his home by an industrialist to put on amateur theatricals (one theory is that he wanted to stop his daughter going off to the bright lights of London). But despite its leafy setting in Kenwood Park Road, the Lantern is not afraid to put on hard-hitting drama.
Artistic director Ruth Carney is directing Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down, written by Doncaster author Richard Cameron and set in a small South Yorkshire town. The one-act play tells how three women who are strangers are linked to each other by a man who has a devastating effect on all their lives.
All three have suffered from his violence in different ways and their stories interweave with each other.
Ruth said: “I’ve known this play for many years. I wanted to do it because it has three fantastic parts for women. It’s my fourth all-female cast as a director. I don’t think that there are that many good parts for women of whatever age. This is an unusual subject matter. It is about a place of innocence that we go through when we fall in love.”
She said that the theatre itself will add its own intimacy to the piece: “Doing this kind of play in this space, the audience will almost feel like you’re going to be the characters’ friend. It’s very exposing stuff that they’re talking about.”
She said that Richard Cameron was very involved in the rehearsals and talking to the cast. The three actresses are Samantha Robinson, who appeared in Ruth’s acclaimed production of the play Order at the Lantern earlier this year, Carla Harrison-Hodge and Laura Hobson, from Rotherham, who are both making their professional stage debuts. Laura is a graduate of Ruth’s theatre school, the Carney Academy of Performing Arts.
Ruth is excited to be taking the Lantern forward, which is perhaps surprising as she has an impressive CV. She was an associate director at Sheffield Theatres, directing Sisters, Confessions of a City and Suitcase City, and then worked as an associate director on musicals such as Ghost, Lord of the Rings and Madness musical Our House in the West End and on Broadway.
What attracts her to such a tiny theatre is the chance to become involved in a new project that she has some degree of control over.
She said: “We’ve had more than 5,000 people come through the doors since the Lantern went professional. The audience used to be 30 per cent. Some shows are selling out.
“We’re making it about Sheffield and bringing people from all over Sheffield.”
Working with creative producers Martin Derbyshire and Matt Risby, Ruth has ambitious plans to make the theatre a vibrant centre for the arts which will extend its outreach work to local schools and the wider community, including areas like Sharrow just up the road.
Times are tough for the arts at the moment and the theatre has no public funding but Ruth is determined that the Lantern will shine very brightly indeed.
Can’t Stand Up for Falling Down is on until Saturday (October 27). Tickets are £10 and can be purchased at the box office on 0114 255 1776 or online at www.lanterntheatre.org.uk